Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Unsure? That's what "Undeclared" is for...

I had an awesome conversation yesterday with one of my student runners. He says he is worried that people keep talking to him about college and he hasn't got a clue about what he wants to do in college, where he wants to go, and how he's going to get there.

Coupled with a struggling tenth grade, this student felt like all hope was lost and that he would never get in to college.

Does this story sound like you? Yeah, it sounded like me in 10th grade too....and probably your classmate. And the kid in Kansas and the other one in Alameda.

Here's the thing, generations ago when parents had many children to work the land and to continue to provide for the larger family, children were required to grow up, get married and have children sooner. That was then.

This is now.

Nowadays, young people stay in obligatory school until the age of seventeen or eighteen. Students are required to take the same classes as their peers in a school that has the same requirements as other schools in the state (in our case, California). This rarely fosters an opportunity for a student to explore careers or future programs of study. Unless the student has found an interest of their own by chance or by having incredibly involved parents fostering that interest, it's not likely that a student in high school will know what they want to do for the rest of their life.

That's OK. Yes, I said it.

Now don't get me wrong, I know many young people that barely made it through high school and realized that they wanted to make music, films or play sports right away and so the rest of the world became secondary. Even post secondary education. But that's a small fraction of a percentage...(like the amount of marathoners in the U.S.).

If you are lucky enough to know what profession you would like to pursue after college, 6-7 years from now, that's great! Just know that you are certainly in the minority. Chances are that you may change your mind while in college or after college. That's OK, too. I started out wanting to be a lawyer. I am a school counselor. I love my job but who knows what the future may hold for me. My younger cousin wanted to be a ice cream truck driver when we were younger. She is now studying to be a nurse and finds that just as fascinating as an ice cream truck driver.

As a student in high school, there are many opportunities to help you decide which options are available to you. This article is a helpful place to start:
"Choosing a College Major"

Also, I encourage you to check out some of the college questionnaires (and no not the ones on Facebook):

Delta Personality Mosaic

Career Key

Career Zone
Mapping your Career

Show this article to your parents

Another way one can begin the career search is by starting to take classes at the local community college. Classes are free for students in the Los Angeles area, take advantage of this and take a class on welding, or ceramics, woodshop or even Sociology! Talk to your counselor about the many options to help you decide what field of study you would like to pursue.

Also, start volunteering or check out some clubs at your school. Google the volunteering opportunities within your community. Ask your parents if they have internships available at their work (or at friends' place of employment).

If you're still not sure, use those inner childhood dream voices to help direct you in the right path. Those young children that lacked the overly articulate and increased pressure of the world had some awesome ways of looking at the world. Look to them for guidance...and read this cool piece by another young adult that kept that inner voice alive through his double major.

Lastly, I must mention that if you may be struggling in the tenth grade, all hope is not lost, there is time to make up any classes that you may have gotten a D or F in, and it won't affect your chances of getting in to your most ideal school. Although you may have to attend summer school or adult school to make up the grade, there is still time. Know that universities favor an upward trajectory in grades from 9th to 11th grade, of course if your grades stay the same or decline over the years, that is definitely a bad sign. Take care of the GPA and balance the rigor because that is the first thing that colleges or universities look at when determining selectivity for admissions.

It is OK to not know what you want to do for the next 50 years of your life. You have 50 years to decide that. Now lets take the next five years, one step/click at a time. Be you and you will be happy. But, take care of your business now so that you're not "I should have...." or "I should not have..." No one wants to should themselves.

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